ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis apologized for insisting that victims of pedophile monks present “proof” to be believed, saying he realized it was a “slap within the face” to victims that he by no means supposed.
However he doubled down on defending a Chilean bishop accused by victims of overlaying up for the nation’s most infamous pedophile priest, and he repeated that anybody who makes such accusations with out offering proof is responsible of slander.
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Francis issued the partial mea culpa in an airborne press convention late Sunday as he returned dwelling from Chile and Peru, the place the clergy abuse scandal and his personal feedback about it plunged the Chilean church into renewed disaster and revived questions on whether or not Francis “will get it” about abuse.
Francis insisted that up to now nobody had supplied him with proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in maintaining quiet in regards to the perversions of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, the charismatic Chilean priest who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for molesting and fondling minors in his Santiago parish.
Flying dwelling from probably the most contested journey of his papacy, Francis mentioned Barros would stay bishop of Osorno, Chile so long as there’s no proof implicating him within the cover-up.
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“I can’t condemn him as a result of I don’t have proof,” Francis mentioned. “However I’m additionally satisfied that he’s harmless.”
Karadima was faraway from ministry and sentenced by the Vatican in 2011 to a lifetime of penance and prayer based mostly on the testimony of his victims, who mentioned they have been all molested by him within the swank parish he headed within the El Bosque space of Santiago. A Chilean choose additionally discovered the victims to be credible, saying that whereas she needed to drop felony prices in opposition to Karadima as a result of an excessive amount of time had handed, proof of his crimes wasn’t missing.
The victims have mentioned for years that Barros, one in every of Karadima’s proteges, witnessed the abuse and did nothing to cease it.
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Barros denies the accusations.
“The most effective factor is for individuals who consider this to deliver the proof ahead,” Francis mentioned.
“On this second I don’t assume it’s this manner, as a result of I don’t have it, however I’ve an open coronary heart to obtain them.”
Juan Carlos Cruz, probably the most vocal of the accusers in opposition to Karadima and Barros, responded with an announcement to The Related Press: “If he wished proof, why didn’t he attain out to us after we have been prepared to reaffirm the testimony that not solely us, however so many witnesses, have been offering for greater than 15 years?” he mentioned.
Francis, although, repeated once more that anybody who makes an accusation with out offering proof is responsible of slander.
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“Somebody who accuses insistently with out proof, that is calumny,” he mentioned. “If I say ‘you stole one thing, you stole one thing,’ I’m slandering you as a result of I don’t have proof.”
He acknowledged that he misspoke when he mentioned he wanted to see “proof” to consider the accusations, saying it was a authorized time period that he didn’t intend. He corrected himself and used the time period “proof,” as a substitute, which he mentioned may embrace testimony.
“Right here I’ve to apologize as a result of the phrase ‘proof’ damage them. It damage a whole lot of abused folks,” he mentioned.
“I understand how a lot they endure. And to listen to that the pope informed them to their face that they should deliver a letter with proof? It’s a slap within the face.”
The Barros scandal dominated Francis’ Jan. 15-21 journey to Chile and Peru, and led to a outstanding church-state public rebuke of the pope.
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Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Francis’ prime adviser on abuse, issued a public criticism saying Francis’ phrases have been a “supply of nice ache for survivors” and that such expressions had the impact of creating them really feel deserted and left to “discredited exile.” The Chilean authorities spokeswoman, Paula Narvaez, mentioned there was an “moral crucial to respect victims of sexual abuse, consider them and help them.”
Francis insisted that he did respect victims and apologized for his “sad” alternative of phrases when he was requested by a Chilean reporter Jan. 18 about his 2015 resolution to nominate Barros to Osorno over the objections of Chilean bishops.
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Francis replied: “The day they create me proof in opposition to Bishop Barros, I’ll communicate. There may be not one shred of proof in opposition to him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”
The feedback sparked an outcry amongst Chileans and roiled abuse survivors and their advocates.
Barros’ primary accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz, tweeted: “As if I may have taken a selfie or a photograph whereas Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching all of it.” Neither he nor the opposite two primary accusers had rapid remark Monday.
The spokesman for a gaggle of Osorno Catholics against Barros, Juan Carlos Claret, mentioned the pope nonetheless didn’t get it.
“It’s unimaginable that the pope doesn’t perceive that the issue wasn’t the phrase ‘proof’ or ‘proof,’ which is identical factor, however that he accused victims of slander — victims who have been discovered to be proper by each Vatican and Chilean justice,” he informed The Related Press.
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He mentioned Cruz had testified in 2010 that Barros was current through the abuse.
Within the press convention, Francis additionally defined a letter reported final week by the AP that confirmed the Vatican was ready to ask Barros and two different Karadima-trained bishops to resign and take a 12 months sabbatical in 2014 to attempt to comprise the fallout from the scandal surrounding the priest. Francis admitted that he put a cease to the plan, saying that if he accepted the resignations with out proof or “ethical certainty” that Barros had finished something improper, “I’d be committing a criminal offense of dangerous judgment.”
Francis mentioned Barros truly did provide to resign — twice — however that he rejected it.
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“I mentioned ’no, this isn’t how we roll,” including that sending Barros and the opposite bishops on sabbatical would have been seen as an act of contrition.
The 2015 appointment outraged Chileans and badly divided the Osorno diocese, the place lots of of lay Catholics and plenty of monks have refused to simply accept Barros.
Francis was additionally requested in regards to the intercourse scandal in neighboring Peru relating to the lay motion Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. He revealed that its founder, Luis Figari, is interesting his Vatican sentence on prices of bodily, sexual and psychological abuse, and financial mismanagement. The Vatican excessive courtroom is anticipated handy down its sentence in two months, he mentioned.
“What I do know is that the factor is unfavorable to the founder,” Francis mentioned.
AP author Eva Vergara contributed from Santiago, Chile.